Invasion of rangeland by exotic forage species threatens ecosystem structure and function and can cause catastrophic economic losses. Herbicide treatments often are the focus of management efforts to control invasions. Management with the fire-grazing interaction (or patch burning) might suppress an invasive forage species that has grazing persistence mechanisms developed apart from the fire-grazing interaction. We studied tallgrass prairies invaded by sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata [Dum.-Cours.] G. Don) to compare rate of invasion between traditional management and management with patch burning, to evaluate the effect of burn season on sericea lespedeza invasion within pastures managed with patch burning, and to correlate canopy cover of sericea lespedeza to canopy cover of other functional groups with and without herbicides. Sericea lespedeza canopy cover increased from 1999 to 2005 in both traditional- and patch-burn pastures, but sericea lespedeza increased from 5% to 16% canopy cover in traditionally managed pastures compared to 3% to 5% in the patch-burn pastures. Rate of increase in canopy cover of sericea lespedeza was less in patches burned in summer (0.41% · year−1) than in patches burned in spring (0.58% · year−1) within patch-burn pastures. Most plant functional groups, including forbs, were weak-negatively correlated with canopy cover of sericea lespedeza. Although herbicide application reduced mass of sericea lespedeza, other components of the vegetation changed little. Herbicide treatments temporarily reduced sericea lespedeza but did not predictably increase other plant functional groups. Patch burning reduced the rate of invasion by sericea lespedeza by maintaining young, palatable sericea plants in the burn patch, and could play a vital role in an integrated weed management strategy on rangelands.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3